“Nativity” refers to a person’s “birth,” particularly the circumstances associated with a person’s birth. So, what are we to make of the nativity of Jesus? In Luke 2:1-7, God speaks three words of hope to kindle a heart of faith.
First, our Savior comes at just the right time. “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town” (vv. 1-3). Caesar Augustus, the great nephew, adopted son, and designated heir of Julius Caesar, was politically shrewd and militarily strong. By this time he had extinguished Rome’s civil wars, subdued his rivals, and turned the republic into an empire. To the Romans, he was viewed as the “lord” and “savior” and “son of god” who brought “peace” to the world. To the Jews, his command that every name, occupation, and property be “registered” was a painful reminder of their subjugation. But in God’s unfolding plan, this outward domination would point to the world’s need for God’s true and deeper salvation, and this outer peace would speed the spread of God’s true and better “Good News.” Do you see? God is working for his glory and our good. If God so worked at just the right time in history, can you trust him to work at this time in your story?
Second, our Savior comes at just the right place. “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child” (vv. 4-5). At first glance, it might seem that Augustus Caesar is sovereign over the world, since he issues a decree and all follow, including this young, engaged couple. Or you might imagine it was the gossip in Nazareth that prompted Joseph and Mary to pack up and leave town. But on closer inspection, the true and greater Sovereign is working to fulfill his promises, both to David that his offspring would reign forever (2 Samuel 7:16), and through Micah that this mighty ruler would come from this tiny Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Do you see? God is working for his glory and our good. If God so ruled history to bring your Savior from the right place, can you trust him to open doors and lead you in the right path?
Finally, our Savior comes in just the right way. “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (vv. 6-7). In the Old Testament, the “firstborn” was entitled to inherit special rights and privileges. So, as the royal son of David, Jesus will inherit the eternal kingdom promised to David. But in what way? If God could rule circumstances to ensure that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem to fulfill Scripture, then surely God can rule circumstances to ensure that Jesus would be born in a cozy and stately space. So, why this Messiah in this manger? Before his Son’s exaltation, his Son’s path must be humiliation. As the old hymn puts it, “Stooping so low, but sinners raising, heavenwards by thine eternal plan.” Do you see? God is working for his glory and our good. If Jesus so identified with you in this lowly, dirty, smelly place, can you trust him to stick with you and share with you his eternal inheritance?
This Christmas, what shall we say in response to these three words of hope? Thrice “Yes, and Amen!”
In His Service,